‘Urrgh’: Diana on Charles the wooer
BRITAIN: It is hardly the response you expect from a cheating husband but when Diana, Princess of Wales confronted Prince Charles over his infidelity, he replied: ‘‘I refuse to be the only Prince of Wales who never had a mistress.’’
Diana describes the blunt response in privately recorded videos that offer a new insight into the couple’s failing relationship and the outdated views of the royal family. She also recounts going to see the Queen at the height of the crisis in her marriage, to be told: ‘‘I don’t know what you should do, Charles is hopeless.’’
The tapes, recorded at Kensington Palace in 1992-3 by speech coach Peter Settelen, have haunted the royal family for more than two decades. Pre-dating Diana’s 1995 Panorama interview, they reveal details of the couple’s sex life (‘‘once every three weeks and then it fizzled out’’); Charles’s clumsy wooing of her; Diana’s love for her personal protection officer Barry Mannakee and the shadow cast over the marriage by Camilla Parker Bowles, now Charles’s wife.
Extracts will be seen for the first time in Britain next Sunday on Channel 4 in a documentary, Diana in Her Own Words.
NBC broadcast brief passages in America in 2004, sparking such controversy that the BBC scrapped its plans to broadcast them in 2007.
The recordings were seized in 2001 by police searching the loft of Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell, who was cleared of all charges of theft from the royal family after the Queen confirmed his innocence.
Settelen had been hired to help Diana prepare to present her account of events after the couple separated in 1991. Although much of the footage is of voice lessons, at times she answers personal questions in a remarkably frank manner.
Her account of being wooed by Charles is almost comic. ‘‘I was asked to stay with friends in Sussex and they said, ‘Oh, the Prince of Wales is staying because he’s playing polo,’’’ she recalls. ‘‘I thought I hadn’t seen him in ages. He had just broken up with his girlfriend and Earl Mountbatten had just been killed.’’ Diana had been previously ‘‘unimpressed’’ by the prince but this time she thought, ‘‘I am quite impressed ... he chatted me up, [he was all over me] like a bad rash; I thought ... ehh [pulls back, pulls face].
‘‘We were at a barbecue that night talking about Mountbatten and his girlfriend and I said, ‘You must be so lonely.’ I said, ‘It’s pathetic watching you walking up the aisle with Lord Mountbatten’s coffin in front, ghastly. You need someone beside you ...’ Agggh. Wrong word! Whereupon he leapt upon me and started kissing me and everything and [waves arms] urrgh ... You know, this is not what people do.
‘‘Next day he said, ‘You must come to Buckingham Palace with me, I have some work to do but you wouldn’t mind sitting while I do my work.’
‘‘I thought, ‘Well, bugger it, I do mind sitting there while you do your work,’ and I said that and that sort of lit up something in him, that someone answered back. So I was quite a challenge.’’
In the tapes Diana comes across as shy, youthful, engaging and full of laughter. When asked by Settelen why she focused on charity work she bursts into giggles and says: ‘‘I’ve got nothing else to do!’’
She and Charles met only 13 times before their marriage. ‘‘He wasn’t consistent with his courting abilities,’’ Diana says. ‘‘He’d ring me every day for a week, then wouldn’t speak to me for three weeks. Very odd. I thought, ‘Fine. Well, he knows where I am if he wants me.’ The thrill when he used to ring up was so immense and intense. It would drive the other three girls in my flat crazy.’’
The inquiry by a television interviewer on the day of the engagement as to whether they were in love was, she says, a ‘‘thick question’’ but she was stunned by Charles’s response: ‘‘Whatever ‘in love’ means.’’ She says: ‘‘That threw me completely. I thought: what a strange answer ... God. It traumatised me.’’
In public, she adds, the pair were ‘‘a good team’’ despite their estrangement.
‘‘I used to get in the car with Charles and I used to blub in the car. There would be crowds everywhere and he would say, ‘Now what’s the matter?’ I said, ‘I can’t be in this car.’ He said, ‘Why?’
‘‘I can’t be in this car, I don’t feel safe. I was neurotic almost but then when I got out of the car ... [pulls face of calm]’’ She was aware of Charles’s relationship with Camilla and confronted him: ‘‘I remember saying to my husband, ‘Why, why is this lady around?’ And he said, ‘Well, I refuse to be the only Prince of Wales who never had a mistress.’’’
Diana blames the marriage and her isolation in the royal family for her bulimia. ‘‘Everybody knew about the bulimia in the family. And they all blamed the failure of the marriage on the bulimia and it’s taken them time to think differently.
‘‘I said I was rejected, I didn’t think I was good enough for this family, so I took it out on myself. I could have gone to alcohol ... I could have been anorexic ... I chose to hurt myself instead of hurting all of you.’’
The Channel 4 extracts are taken from seven tapes. There were believed to be 12 in all, but five are missing. The royal family may have more revelations to face.
"Whereupon he leapt upon me and started kissing me and everything and [waves arms] urrgh . . . You know, this is not what people do." Princess Diana
There were public hints at the private difficulties of Charles and DIana’s relationship.